How to Understand and Build Brand Architecture for Optimum Customer Experience

Many Brand Architecture models have been developed over the years. Everything comes down to understanding how far or close the brand is in relationship to another brand. Stuart Leo, MD and Founder of looks at the four simple frameworks to understanding Brand Architecture

When it comes to brand, customer experience or technology, we believe the baseline for which everything revolves is people. At the end of the day people buy things from people.

That’s why we, at Blirt, build brands like characters and it’s why we focus on customer experience over advertising, simplicity over cool, content over channel and wisdom over theory.

Brands are complex, because characters and people are complex. And, when it comes to organizing and aligning families — let me just ask, how was your Christmas? Was your family and extended family easy to organize and maintain peaceful relationships with?

In the same way, brand families, or what is commonly referred to as Brand Architecture, can sometimes be difficult to organize and keep aligned across organizations.

Many Brand Architecture models have been developed over the years. All comes down to understanding how far or close the brand is in relationship to another brand. The last thing you want is a collection of brands within an organization without purpose, clarity or order.

The great challenge in today’s hyper competitive, omni-channel, digital world is to have a brand framework which is dynamic and agile but consistent and true to its character.

The Purpose of Brand Architecture

Brand Architecture is really important to understand. Its purpose is to enable scale within your organization’s business model, allowing your business to grow at the right pace (ideally as quickly as possible), whilst at the same time being crystal clear in offerings to your customer.

A business will not scale if the brand architecture slows it down, creates confusion or allows one brand to devalue another with a net negative effect.

As humans we see and understand brands through the lens of human characteristics and therefore we will always buy things from ‘people’ whether it be face to face or via online experiences.

Our approach uses human centered concepts. When thinking about brand families; think about parent, child, brother/sister, cousin, friend or neighbor and the closeness or distance that comes from the relationships between these types of people.

When there are two brands in a portfolio are they a Parent-Child relationship or a Brother-Sister relationship? Should a brand be presented alongside, underneath or some distance from another brand?

Many organizations get this part of their brand strategy wrong due to poor thinking about the practical nature of relationships.

The Four Basic Structures of Brand Families

When organizing a Brand Family, there are four simple categories to understand. And, just like families, if we tried to organize all the families in the world into four categories, there would definitely be grey areas and differences. Therefore, use this as a framework for unpacking a solution, not as absolute gospel.

Here is a starting point to think about your brand family or Brand Architecture and how to organize one or one hundred brands within an organization.

The four ways of organizing brands are:

  • Parent Lead
  • Family of Leaders
  • Parent Endorsed
  • Lead Individual

Parent Lead

A branded family/house which can include brother/sister relationship or a more distant cousin relationship. However, one member of the family takes a definite leadership and contextual role. An example here is BMW.

It’s also worth noting the brother/sister relationship that exists between BMW and Mini. You will typically find a dealer retailing both brands next to each other given their corporate structure.

Family of Leaders

Within this family construct, individual Child Brands lead and can have a connection when needed under the family name, or standalone if required.

A great example here is the Coca-Cola family. At last count there were over 500 brands within the Coca-Cola family — some connect to each other, some stand alone. All lead directly as standalone brands within their prospective segments.

Parent Endorsed

A Child Brand is endorsed by a Parent Brand to give the endorsed entity meaning, purpose and a set of perceptions. Parent endorsed could also be split into Subtle Endorsement or Dominant Endorsement.

A Subtle Endorsement would be the way Unilever signature their ads and products with the dropdown tab of the Unilever brand mark. The leading brand is in the Axe deodorant example but the Unilever endorsement drops in as a subtle endorsement at the end of the TV advertisement.

A Dominant Endorsement would be the way Marriott endorses its various brands within the portfolio. In this example, the Marriott brand plays a very dominant role in the design and mark of the asset.

An example of a brand family going through refinement is actually the Coke brand — Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Life and Coke have all been recently been reorganized into a dominant endorsement structure where Coke is the brand and the product variations are just that — variations to specific market segment.

Time will tell for Coke on how well this will work.

Leading Individual

A Leading Individual is a classic single individual brand. Some are Leading Individuals because there is no need for a diversity of brands or because the leading dominant brand absorbs and covers all acquisitions and mergers.

How Clear is Your Organization’s Brand Family? Remember, the purpose of building a brand family is to allow an organization to scale the business model whilst retaining and enhancing clarity to the customer. Are you achieving this or is it time you reviewed your brand experience?

Please note that the trademarks used in this blog post are owned by their rightful owners and not used with their permission but gathered for an educational purpose from their respective websites to illustrate this approach. We love them all and thank them for their participation and showing us how to do marketing well within this article.

This article was originally published on MarTech Advisor

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